When we set up the UK branch of WfW, I was clear I wanted to spend less on marketing and more where it counts: on our programs that give women the tools and support to rebuild their lives. To do so, my mantra has been simple: say “Yes!” If somebody wants to contribute, I ask, “What would you like to do?” The answer might be “design a T-shirt”, “organize a fashion show” or “create a cookbook”. This is how our fashion car-boot sales came about – I met [shoe and accessories designer] Charlotte Olympia Dellal five years ago; she hosted a fashion show and is now one of our ambassadors. It was the same with Alice Temperley, Mary Katrantzou and Nadja Swarovski, and it was also how our #SheInspiresMe car boot sale came about. Last year, we raised £236,000 [$301,000] with the support of creative director Alex Eagle and designer retail site theoutnet.com.
We also work with the Swarovski Foundation, a partner from our earliest days. It has helped about 850 women in Nigeria take part in our year-long empowerment program. And as part of our Sponsor a Sister initiative, 250 Swarovski staff have been sponsoring women over a 12-month period to provide them with living expenses and training in business skills. These human connections are important and lie at the heart of some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had. In 2014, when the Yazidi women were kidnapped by Isis, we raised £800,000 at a gala to set up local organizations that could provide social counseling for women returning from captivity. It showed the power of what you can do if you band together.
My most profound shining moment, however, is embodied by a Bosnian woman called Amela. I first sponsored her 10 years ago. We exchanged letters and one day she wrote to me to thank me for knowing she exists. This really impacted me. It shaped how I embraced my role here at WfW.
There are moments when I feel heartbroken, wondering how humanity can be so cruel. But I once met a woman called Fatima in Rwanda. She had been threatened at gunpoint, her family exterminated, and there she was, a graduate of one of our programs, joyfully welcoming our team to her village. Her joy was contagious. Whenever I’m down, I think, “If Fatima has hope, who am I not to have it?” Without hope, we are lost.
This story appeared in the Spring/Summer 2019 issue of SALT magazine.
Image Credits: David M Bennett/Dave Benett/Getty Images; Oliver Rudkin; Tristan Fewings/Getty Images; Women for Women International